An astounding read - actually, a 'listen' (audiobook) - about the evolution of a southern black student into a leader in the civil rights movement.
ThAn astounding read - actually, a 'listen' (audiobook) - about the evolution of a southern black student into a leader in the civil rights movement.
The writing is breathtaking, marvellous, hallucinatory in places. It feels like jazz.* It reminded me very much of beat writing -- and of course, it was a product of that age -- in the way it fuses symbolism with realism. Although 'novelistic' and traditionally plotted, the novel is also (or feels to have been, for the time) innovative, stylized, experimental, and highly intellectual - purposeful in explicating an emerging ideology (social, political, personal) and its roots/causes. And just - the words. The WORDS. The SENTENCES. The PARAGRAPHS. Stunning, dramatic, powerful prose and imagery that sweeps you up in the events it describes. You ride the wave of this writing, and you let it teach you.
* so remember, I listened to this book. And the narrator, namely Joe Morton, is masterful. Brilliant. There should be an Academy Award for best book-reading actor, and Joe Morton should win it every year. I can't completely know, of course, but I feel that had I read this book on the page, I wouldn't have understood a damn thing. I might even have given up in frustration. Thank you, Joe Morton. Thank you.
The titular main character -- who is never named, but for whom name, identity, self-awareness, perception of self by others, is so central -- and the first-person narration work together to take what is, essentially, a political creed and personalize it. You go on a journey (literal, intellectual, emotional, spiritual) with this character. (He's always walking, always moving - this book has incredible energy and physicality; it's not all cerebral despite the narrative style and thematic focus). You go with him; you grow with him. He is a 19-yr-old student from what is actually a privileged position in an all-black university somewhere in the southern U.S., and he is concerned, in large part, with defining his own future in a world where everything, simply everything, is arrayed against him. Half the time, he doesn't seem to even know all of what holds him down and keeps him out (the arrogance of youth, perhaps; or the previously-stated privilege); he doesn't see the forces around him directly oppressing and entrapping him. This realization only slowly dawns on him once he is thrust into a broader world, where his invisibility descends upon him through a series of harrowing scenes, including his time working in a paint factory and, after, held in a psychiatric ward.
He stumbles into involvement in the early civil rights movement in Harlem with a vague belief (one might say delusion) that he is destined for greatness, that he somehow will be the one not only to rise above the systemic oppression he has faced, but also lead others out of it. At the same time, the reader sees how he is being used and how the politics of the group he falls in with (an egalitarian humanism standing in for Marxism) will, ultimately, fail to lead to black liberation. Jack, as the Invisible Man's inductor into this political world, is terrifying and the later scenes with Todd Clifton, a fellow member of "the Brotherhood", are some of the novel's most powerful, illustrative and prescient.
For a reader like me who is finally getting around to this book in 2016, the year of Black Lives Matter, and Tr--p, and the clear failure of neo-liberalism as anything but a system that entrenches white privilege, these lessons -- and the knowledge that Ellison saw all this wayyyy back in 1952 -- are profoundly disturbing, disheartening, and painful. I felt an utter sense of exhaustion and futility, and a shameful realization (one that those of us with white skin and privilege need to learn and relearn, and relearn, and relearn) that this is African American reality, and has been for 400+ years.
The politics of this book, its worldview, and especially, its violence -- the inherent, ongoing, inevitable, ever-present violence of oppression -- feel so important. So important still. So important now. These battles are still being fought. Cops and people of colour. The male, white elite's oppressive, oppressing privilege. The violence, the ever-present violence and dehumanization and enforced invisibility, inconsequence, immaterialism. Black lives have matter. Black Lives Matter.
This is a seriously fantastic book in all the most important ways, and weirdly perfect for the times. TheWOW. Attica Locke. What a find (thanks, Jo!)
This is a seriously fantastic book in all the most important ways, and weirdly perfect for the times. The gross mendacity and political corruption at the heart of the plot - unpeeled layer by layer by our hero, Jay Porter, a grief-stricken and world-weary civil rights activist turned environmental-then-criminal lawyer - feels almost prescient in Locke's hands (although the novel was published in early 2015, it takes place in 1996).
Locke puts together a complex plot that is part murder mystery, part political thriller, and part family drama, and then drops it in the race-and-class stewpot of post-Jim-Crow, Bush-governed Texas (and, btw, the Clinton-governed U.S.). She makes it clear that the kernels of political disruption based on class and race divides, which we've just seen rock the free world in ways that feel both completely unexpected yet completely predictable, took root long ago, exactly like this: nurtured to life in a corrupt pool dominated by money, oil, greed, lobbyists, lies, PACs, shifting racial demographics, and a love of power that makes for strange bedfellows in venues both small and local, as well as, by implication and exposition, large and national.
Pleasantville ends on Election Day, 2000 - an election that the novel declares as the closest ever in history, which the pundits, the New York Times and the Washington Post, Locke tells us, are unable to call. The reader, of course, knows that Bush wins by a hair - proving one of Locke's central points - but we also know, and Locke knows we know, that Obama follows.
Reading this on November 20, 2016, however, we also know that what follows Obama is the other shoe dropping, the political pendulum swinging yet again, with race and class feeding into our political - and personal - lives in an even more extreme, more traumatizing, way.
Listen: this novel was brilliant, and gripping, and fantastic, before November 8, 2016. But after it, whoa. If it wasn't a story so well-told, with its various plot points tied together in a way that, almost miraculously, sidesteps cynicism, the theme "the personal is political" sounding a bluesy background note throughout, (view spoiler)[and with love and friendship and justice winning at the end, (hide spoiler)] it would have been almost unbearable to read right now.
I'm so glad I did. And I'm now going to read all that Ms. Locke has written. She's just that good. ...more
**spoiler alert** It's kind of hard to believe how MUCH is in this tiny, seemingly simple, story. The language is so basic, and there are two main thr**spoiler alert** It's kind of hard to believe how MUCH is in this tiny, seemingly simple, story. The language is so basic, and there are two main thrusts in terms of narrative: 1) the story of Addie and Louis - a coming together at the end of their lives for companionship and - eventually - sex. Very sweet and loving. 2) the intrusion into that coming together of Addie and Louis by Addie's grandson Jamie, and his father Gene, Addie's good-for-nothing son.
The novel pulled at my heartstrings in many ways (coz kids and old people, right? vulnerable, dependent, fragile), but where I think its emotional power resides is in the collision of this gentle, sweet love story (whose sweetness was pretty much all about Addie's courage and Louis's kindness and the fact that they were aged 70, when the pursuit and potential for love and companionship is often abandoned but so sorely needed) with the violence and disruption (view spoiler)[(the implicit and explicit child neglect/abuse and, eventually, elder abuse) (hide spoiler)] of the Jamie/Gene story line.
The novel is really subtle in how it weaves these two narratives together - with Addie's love, courage and autonomy ultimately giving way to her guilt, fear and dependence. Everyone ends up (or remains) battered and damaged. And so what starts out as a simple little love story with a bit of a unique twist turns very dark, profoundly sad, deeply moving.
Gorgeous prose poem about living (and dying) under an oppressive dictatorship, but ultimately - despite the beauty and interesting resonances of the iGorgeous prose poem about living (and dying) under an oppressive dictatorship, but ultimately - despite the beauty and interesting resonances of the imagery, which you almost had to feel rather than read - it felt to me distancing and slightly impenetrable. For something similar, my tastes run more to The Vagrants - much more difficult and horrific, but somehow more suited to the subject matter....more
this is my and jo's first attempt at a joint review. this task, already a difficult one, is made all the more difficult by the fact that we disagreethis is my and jo's first attempt at a joint review. this task, already a difficult one, is made all the more difficult by the fact that we disagree about the book! jo liked it less than i!
jakaem: i particularly enjoyed the unique portraits of all the characters, even though i didn't like any of the characters themselves. creating well-articulated characters who didn't have a lot of redeeming qualities, in fact weren't terribly interesting, felt quite a feat. one might claim that it is easier to portray villains than self-absorbed, relatively nondescript, run-of-the-mill banal characters. and yet, they emerge vividly and with distinct personalities and quirks.
jo: i, too, found the characters quite distasteful, at least til the very end, where the author decides to give us something to like about at least some of them. i don't know why hadley chose to populate this novel with unpleasant characters -- even the kids are not pleasant! i did not like the insistence on the physicality of these women (they are mostly women), especially the fact that they are all more or less dumpy and frumpy, excepting the exotic, latin-american new wife of the brother. i also didn't like the emphasis on bad aging. as a woman, i read this book and felt generally quite depressed about the allegedly terrible fate of aging women. i don't read books to get depressed (and yes, i do get that hadley is being more positive about aging than the surface of the novel suggests, but this comes up a bit too little too late).
jakaem: what hadley is doing is drawing a parallel between this family and their changing relationships with each other as they age. hadley anchors these changing relationships in the increasing decrepitude of the childhood home; it's the end of an era for them all. there is something poignant about the siblings' tragic past in connection with the history of the house, which they've taken a final three-week vacation to determine whether they can keep going, or must give up. i also found the pastoral prose enjoyable and thought it worked well as a setting for the organic nature of these complex, growing, changing sibling relationships.
jo: too. many. words. too many nouns, adjectives, plant names, trees, flowers, shapes of the sky, rivers, configurations of the light and the air, permutations of the weather. many, many words about bodies, skin, body parts, over and over and over. and clothing. so much clothingness. i couldn't keep my attention on the page cuz the language kept getting in the way. but look: i admire the book. the writing is exquisite, just not my cup of tea (lots of tea is drunk in the course of this book).
jakaem: the thing that kept me going, aside from the fact that i actually liked the language, is a sense of foreboding. i kept expecting something terrible to happen. (view spoiler)[since nothing really happens, this seemed to me an interesting way to add drama where there is in fact no drama. (hide spoiler)] jo: i have seen that other people rank hadley's former books more highly than this one so i'm willing to try more of her stuff. but here something i'm really not interested in: the rural, exuberantly grown, verdant england all english people love -- this england of long, rain-soaked walks, wellington boots, and hot cups of tea by the poorly-working fireplace at the return.
jakaem: hahaha. yeah, it really was weakly steeped in lots of places. i liked Harriet and her whole character arc, though. she kept me going. also, this book gets the award for most creative - and abundant - descriptions of eyelids.
jo: what kept me going was wanting to know where it all went. and the ending definitely pays off!...more
Eileen is a triumph of narrative voice, and that is the single reason why I am giving this novel four stars. From the distance of many years hence, EiEileen is a triumph of narrative voice, and that is the single reason why I am giving this novel four stars. From the distance of many years hence, Eileen narrates a week-long series of events that occurred to her leading to her departure from her hometown at the age of 24, where she was living a life of squalor, despair and servitude to her alcoholic father.
An old woman now whose circumstances are unclear, Eileen is -- or at least was -- one hot mess. But a compelling one. I found her absolutely fascinating: a mass of insecurities, fantasies, drunkenness, physical decreptitude (with a not insignificant degree of body dysmorphia), emotional volatility and inconsistencies hidden behind what she tells us is a "death mask". Ridden by fears and anxieties, she is the product of truly awful life circumstances. She never bathes. She wears her dead mother's clothes. She drinks to excess with her father in a squalid house; stalks a co-worker -- her only sexual outlet (she's never had a date, or rather, had one for her prom which went terribly badly). She is easy prey to a glamourous teacher who arrives in town -- but who exactly is prey and who predator? (To be honest, neither one of them possesses the competency or confidence to be true sociopaths, contributing to the culminating event degenerating into farce).
Eileen is a misfit and an outcast and a self-admitted oddball.
There's a great amount of humour here - unintentional, for the most part, although it's born of some kind of survival instinct and a self-deprecatory approach to this hostile world, in which Eileen rages mutely and wants nothing more to leave via an act of violence to herself or her father (it seems to be the only way out for her). And though the potential for great violence hovers in the air always in this novel, propelling it forward, there is simultaneously a sense - per above - that Eileen is just too damn damaged to pull anything off. So, quickly, the novel becomes less about the dramatic tension of whatever is going to happen to drive Eileen out of town, and more about its inevitability based on Eileen herself, her life circumstances, her pathos.
It's absurd, and dark, and we are really not laughing at her, but with her. And we (at least I) liked her. Mostly. The framing device of Eileen as an old woman, telling the story of who she was, creates an honesty and vulnerability that is endearing. Not entirely (or at all) believable, but the reader is in on the joke - and we (at least I) found a place of tremendous compassion for her, side-by-side with repulsion and horror.
To be sure, there are moments where Eileen reveals the full scope of the emotional damage that has been done to her, and we sense a chilling coldness, a lack of empathy that might be described as sociopathic, if one were to choose to put a label on it.
But there are also moments -- and more of them -- that fall in between, for example a scene she narrates where a young neighbourhood boy had shovelled her driveway and she invites him in to pay him. She ends up kissing him (and scaring him away for good). From her perspective, the moment unfolds with a certain innocence, and as a reader it came across as less predatory than simply socially awkward (to an extreme degree) - similar to many, many other scenes in which older-Eileen reflects on younger-Eileen's behaviour, and gives the reader a glimpse into what this behaviour looked like, albeit a glimpse tinged by her own unreliability and considerable ambiguity.
This is a just one of many scenes that are difficult to interpret in terms of how, exactly, disordered Eileen really is. Mostly, I landed somewhere in the middle where I had compassion for this woman whose personality seems to have developed in a complete vacuum and who is, essentially, just plain lonely and really badly broken.
There is, as mentioned, the incessant march toward Christmas Eve day when Eileen is forced to leave her small Massachusetts (? - New England somewhere) town forever. We don't know why, we just know it's coming and so we are filtering all of her behaviour through that lens. When it does come, it's a) not what we expect; and b) told again in this minimizing, detached voice which nevertheless reveals that there is true chaos, disorder, violence occurring - inept as it is - and it's all the more chilling for that.
Oh and also: (view spoiler)[the climactic moment occurs within the context of Eileen's work at a 'children's prison' - a house of horrors that she is numb to, or dissociated from, or unable to empathize with. Leonard Polk, and his mother, and Rebecca (some kind of instrument of 'justice' - but also distorted and just plain odd); the prison itself, and the abuses that go on; all of these are mere backdrop for plot. (hide spoiler)]What actually happens to drive Eileen out of town is less important (at least, it was to me when reading) than Eileen's psychology, her responses to it, the catalyst it proved to be.
It's sort of awful. It's awful because the true horror in this novel passes as scenery, unremarkable in some way. Eileen herself walks - literally, walks - out of town and away from it all and - we seem to be told - goes on to live a relatively good life. She takes great pains to tell us that she is never caught; that no one even comes looking for her. The ineptitude of her act and departure - which simply must have left a trail of clues a mile wide - suggests that no one really cared to look. And that's the tragedy at the heart of this novel. That, and the horror she both experienced and contributed to, which remain behind like a bad smell.
It's an unsettling book. But an amazing authorial feat. ...more
Luscious, laconic, nothing-happens-but-everything-happens Anne Tyler. A kaleidoscope of lives revealed in all their plainness and their complexity. ThLuscious, laconic, nothing-happens-but-everything-happens Anne Tyler. A kaleidoscope of lives revealed in all their plainness and their complexity. The intricate love of families, bound together by petty annoyances and profound love, unspooling over the years. I thought each section could have stood on its own as a short story (this is not a criticism, just another way to enjoy the novel and marvel at Tyler's capacity to illuminate these lives slowly, carefully). I loved the gentle humour - anchored in people's conversations with each other that felt so impeccably true to life. And I love how important the house was - what a light hand Tyler had with the central, unifying metaphor of the house. ...more
I'm giving this a solid four, although while reading it I was three-ish. In many places it was superb - the beautiful, poetic language; the originalitI'm giving this a solid four, although while reading it I was three-ish. In many places it was superb - the beautiful, poetic language; the originality of the premise and plot (hard to do in post-apocalyptica, and I didn't really get there until well into the second hundred pages); the interludes in which Watkins interjected new, self-contained pieces of writing - I don't know what you call that - the expositional beginning of part II; Levi's primer; the scene in the buried swimming pool; Luz's root trip (holy crap, what an amazing piece of writing that is).
There was a ton of creative energy in this. And then, there is the author's own back story, which can't help but inform the reading making it even more fascinating. (I liked knowing that in advance, btw; altho' not everyone would).
When this book took flight, it really soared.
The problem for me is that it was a turbulent ride. It felt inconsistent - too inconsistent to me. It felt a little kitchen-sinky. It felt a little over-ambitious - not typically something that discourages me, when reading; I really like authorial audacity. But it was enough to cause me to look out the window and worriedly wonder if the wings were gonna hold. It made me trust Watkins a little less than I needed to. This is a wild ride, and you need to trust.
This is a tree-falls-in-the-forest question, but I wonder, (view spoiler)[had I known where I was going to land, and also that both Luz and Ray survive until the very end at least (hide spoiler)], if that would have restored a sense of continuity, and my ability to trust where Watkins was taking me? Whether I would have had less of a rev-up, stop, stall, rev-up again feeling of plot progression that was, at some level, my primary challenge in the overall reading experience of this.
I admire that structure a lot. I think it actually works fantastically well with the plot and premise - it almost mimics the unpredictable encroachment of the sand. But I didn't enjoy it at an experiential level while reading, that's the thing.
Also, loosey-goosey character back stories. I felt like the moral of the story was always there, but under-explored. Strangely, I feel like I wanted her to be a little more heavy-handed with some of the themes, and with some of the characterizations. (Had she been so, I would have hated it no doubt. Be careful what you wish for, reader). Without this, though, the whole thing skirted a little too closely to nihilism for my own readerly comfort.
So, those things were enough to unsettle me. But again, when this book is brilliant - which it regularly is - it is stupendously brilliant. The ending - wow. Another beautiful piece of writing; gorgeously surreal.
I'ma stop writing or I'll talk myself up to a five.
I enjoyed this book a lot as I was reading it - but I honestly can't remember precisely what I liked or, really, much of what I read. I know I liked tI enjoyed this book a lot as I was reading it - but I honestly can't remember precisely what I liked or, really, much of what I read. I know I liked the writing; there's an elegance to it and to the slow, careful unlayering of the characters' thoughts and motivations as they tell the narrator the stories of their lives (or pieces of them).
We never really get to know anyone - even tho' they are sharing masses of details, many many words, about some of the most personal aspects of their lives. Their relationships, the failing of these relationships; the cruelties they've experienced and, sometimes, doled out in these relationships.
But we never get beyond these characters' subjective 'truths' - quotation marks because there is a good deal of questioning of whether or not they in fact are telling the truth. Whether, indeed, they even know the truth.
This telling of personal stories takes place by writers, for the most part, to a narrator who is teaching a writing class, i.e., teaching people how to tell stories. There is something delightful in the dynamic tension created as people appear to be deeply self-reflective and self-revelatory, with words that seem thoughtful and laden with insight, but who give us just the briefest slices of their lives in story form (outlines, as it were) which may or may not be true; and that by necessity are disconnected from any verifiable reality beyond the narrator's own assessment of whether she believed them or not.
The stories the narrator is told (making up the story we readers are told) are shown to be vapour-thin and ephemeral - maybe real, maybe not; maybe truth, maybe fiction. Kind of like the novel we find in our hands as we turn the last page. ...more
**spoiler alert** This is a tidal wave of a book. It hooks you with lyrical, beautiful, deceptively gentle prose at the beginning (and, if you are rea**spoiler alert** This is a tidal wave of a book. It hooks you with lyrical, beautiful, deceptively gentle prose at the beginning (and, if you are reading a hard copy, a cut-above physical presentation including full-colour photos and colour page/chapter headers - turquoise, for the sea.) It starts you off from the POV of the 12-year-old protagonist who, it will become apparent at some point, is telling the story of her childhood from 20 years hence.
I liked it a lot - I like the clever and poetic use of fish imagery and the yearning for an alternate universe by this sad, anxious, lonely girl. I liked this sad, anxious, lonely girl. The more we learn about Caitlin and her mother, Sheri's, life together (its impoverished, precarious bleakness), the more the aquarium seems a dreamscape.
Environment – whether a dark, mystical and dreamy aquarium; a warm bed in a white, sparely-furnished apartment in an industrial area; or a Victorian bungalow fitted up with lovingly hand-crafted woodwork – is essential here in specific and symbolic ways. The idea of refuge, of shelter, of safety is important, and is integrally linked to, often provided by, place.
It is not provided by parents – or really, any other adults or social structures (with the most unlikely, fairy-tale-ish exceptions, to be discussed in a bit).
There is very little safety here for anyone. All of the traditional structures that should support children growing up are shown to fail – either by abandonment and neglect (Sheri’s father); incompetence (Caitlin’s teacher); or outright physical and psychological abuse and violence that occurs after a childhood of horrific trauma (Sheri herself).
Enter: unlikely saviours. Sources of love and belonging that tip convention on its head (and in many ways defy all belief): the old man at the aquarium (who, by implicit understanding of ‘how these things work,’ we are primed to think of as a predator. Although, at the same time, we don’t – because Vann treads a finely-wrought line in presentation of him that is worth the price of admission all on its own); Caitlin’s girlfriend Shalini – her shelter from the storm, her introduction to a world as beautiful and sensual as the aquarium; Steve – Sheri’s latest boyfriend (who sticks around).
The scenes depicting Caitlin’s deep and desperate love of her mom, and her equally desperate longing for the reconstitution of a stable family – and the scenes where Sheri betrays that love, violates every facet of her obligation as a parent as she has experienced that violation – are wrenching and harrowing. The reader learns – not quite as harshly as Caitlin herself – the background details in layers, hints, and then completely – or as completely as Sheri can tell it. The mother-daughter relationship – at first appearing merely neglectful (although there are plenty of suggestions that there has been physical violence); later, escalating to terrible scenes of psychological and physical abuse – is the fulcrum around which the themes of intergenerational trauma, violence, family, forgiveness and healing pivot.
There are some supremely nuanced moments of interaction: e.g., Sheri’s desperate, sadistic plea to Caitlin that she keep quiet so as not to drive Steve away – and what that reveals of Sheri’s fractured, twisted approach to love and attachment. E.g., the moment that Sheri asks her father to give her something, anything, any reason to help her not to hate him (he reveals his WW II trauma).
There are many moments that reveal a household in complete disarray, with all the pieces in place for lives of quiet (or not so quiet) misery to slide down into ruin.
All of this, we are led to believe (because we see it in the news every day, we know the stats, we know the state of the world, don’t we?) can come to only one sad, inevitable ending. Variations on a theme, maybe, but ultimately the same sad ending. Mom in jail. Caitlin in protective services. Grandpa arrested, or with a restraining order against him, without the means or capacity to step back in and make things right. Boyfriend revealed to be an opportunistic, drug-dealing, fly-by-nighter who is very soon gone, gone, gone. Or, Mom and boyfriend teaming up to swindle a repentent, broken old man out of his hard-earned house, heaping upon him the years of abuse in a vicious quid pro quo. Girlfriend found out and sent away, far far away, banned from ever seeing Caitlin again by her aristocratic Indian parents.
And then … then there is the ending that Vann gives us.
At first, when I read the ending, I thought: no. No no no no no no. This fabulous book, this beautiful writing, the uniqueness of the imagery, this gripping story: there has been some mistake. This author got it wrong.It just doesn’t happen this way.
Grandpa doesn’t come back with a pretty little cottage and a willingness to sign it all over to his daughter if she’ll just forgive him.
Boyfriend doesn’t all of a sudden become the stable father figure correcting years of relationship chaos for Sheri, and for Caitlin and Sheri.
12-year-old girls caught in the bath together, dragged out naked and screaming, aren’t allowed to bed down for the next xx years, under the approving eye of Grandpa and Steve, and the acquiescence of Mom who most definitely does not, in a split second …
… see the error of her ways and, faced by a demand by Grandpa (whom she hasn’t forgiven) and Steve (who is still unbelievably there), witnesses the burning up of the title to the house, and trots off to therapy. Twenty weeks of CBT, and all is well (that’s not Vann's story, that’s my cynicism coming through).
They don’t all live happily ever after.
But then, I thought about it. And I thought – Jen, this author is renowned. He has shown you the most exquisitely rendered scenes of nuanced, psychological realism. You're nothing but arrogant to think he's wrong; to think his ending(s) aren't intentional. This is a choice he’s made. What clues do you have to figure out WHY this ending? WHY?
And in conclusion, it seems to me that this novel is exploring the very question: whether or not failures of parenting – by which you can infer the most extreme cases of abuse and neglect, physical and emotional – can be healed. Whether forgiveness can happen. Whether things can turn out alright.
The ending, for each reader, is either wildly implausible or … not.
The ending asks us to believe in a fairy tale. That people lost in a forest, surrounded by monsters (this happens) can come out alive. That knights in shining armour are out there. That the gingerbread house (or Victorian cottage with lovely, handcrafted woodwork) really exists. That it’s an oasis of sweetness and love, attainable by even the most impoverished and disenfranchised and disempowered. That Grandma (or in this case Grandpa) will provide sustenance and compassion to the end of their life (and not turn out to be an evil witch who tosses kids into the stove).
That people can change.
That therapy can help.
That the wounds created by the basest violations of trust can be patched over.
Maybe not perfectly, but enough. Enough for a reasonably happy ending.